Icterine Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk + Wall Brown – 15th Aug

A fall of Eurasian drift migrants across eastern England on Friday prompted my first out-of-county birding twitch of the autumn passage. The outstanding candidates for me were two Icterine Warbler, a lifer on the north Norfolk coast. One of these birds was reported at Blakeney point, of 3-mile (each way) shingle spit walk fame. The second was about a mile from the nearest road at a spot just west of Holkham Pines, near the village of Burnham Overy Staithe. As usual I went for the easier option.

During the three hour outward drive Oxonbirders Tezzer and Andy kept me informed of relevant news on RBA, and when I got to my destination mid-morning plenty of cars were parked beside the A149 by a track out to Burnham Overy Dunes. That looked promising, then a man walking back told me the “Icky” was showing well and I picked out a cluster of birders some way off. The bird was pointed out as soon as I arrived on site and that was another of the more regular drift migrant warblers added to my British and life lists.


The “Icky” site from a distance

It being a first winter individual I expected a paler looking bird than I was actually observing. In the event the lemon yellow tone of this fairly large warbler was plain to see and the big orange bill also stood out. Other diagnostics are a pale wing panel, long primary projection and grey legs; but I expect lots of you know that because you’ve seen them before and I hadn’t until now! Today’s bird was quite showy to begin with, treating its audience to displays of feeding and preening at fairly close range. Then it relocated to the far side of the watching group and put on an even better performance.

icterine warbler.1501 holkham dunes

Large head, long wings, short tail

Like last winter, these images of a small passerine are as good as it’s likely to get with my equipment and show how the bird was seen. As the morning progressed and the number of birders grew the Icky became more skulking, offering less frequent views. So I checked with Norfolk people present whether there was anything else of note in the area, and on being told not began to meander my way homeward.

holkham dunes.1502 icky twitch

On the walk out and back to this site today I came across several Wall Brown, a butterfly that is more numerous in England around coasts during it’s larger August and September second brood. This species has the most intricate underwing pattern of all the British browns, as these pictures show. Grayling and Dark Green Fritillary were also active in the dunes and along the sea wall, adding a nice bonus to a successful twitch.

wall brown_01.1506 holkham dunes


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